Since their formation in 2014, the Norwalk, CT-based jam-outfit Goose has never been able to rest on its collective laurels. Shortly after their debut, they joined forces with multi-instrumentalist Peter Anspach, a move that helped solidify their unique sound thanks to his uncanny Shohei Ohtani-esque two-way abilities on guitar and keyboards, and followed that up with the addition of percussion guru Jeff Arevalo a few years later. When the global pandemic effectively shut down the live-music industry in 2020, the quintet fortuitously became COVID-era trailblazers, filling the void with a series of highly successful socially-distanced performances at drive-in theaters across the country as well as producing their own full-length documentary, Bingo Tour: The Movie, a critically acclaimed affair that chronicles a week-long run of virtual concerts and community events.
Combine those remarkably shrewd logistical decisions with the group’s undeniable musical abilities, and it’s no wonder why Goose’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past few years in ways that most other bands spend their entire careers dreaming about. In just a short span, the New England quintet has gone from opening for mid-tier jam bands at stuffy clubs in front of a few dozen people to packing theatres and arenas with capacity crowds as well as headlining major summer-music festivals and hallowed venues such as Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre & Radio City Music Hall in New York.
Managerial innovations aside, any band will only go as far as their material will take them, a paradigm which Goose represents better than perhaps anyone. Their shows are a clash of strong influences combining the indie sensibilities of Bon Iver and adventurous improv of Phish into a refreshingly unique sound that pushes the boundaries of live music.
With their latest studio release, Dripfield (out 6/24), the group makes a concerted effort to eschew their jam band roots for a distinctly more indie-leaning sound, another bold decision that pays off admirably thanks to its genuinely strong original material: particularly a pair of reimagined fan favorites, as well as a welcome guest appearance from NYC-area saxophone firebrand Stuart Bogie.
Dripfield, which marks the quintet’s third full-length studio LP, is also the first to feature an outside producer, D. James Goodwin (The Hold Steady, Amy Helm, Bob Weir), who hosted the band at his ultra-modern Isokon recording studio outside of New York City. “James was great,” effuses guitarist Rick Mitarotonda. “He really got us to think about our approach in so many different ways. I really liked re-working some of the stuff we’ve been playing for years and taking the material in directions I would have never expected.”
The album starts off with “Borne” a leisurely shuffle with a haunting chorus that counts among a handful of new tracks debuted earlier this year and does a fine job of showcasing Mitarotonda’s uniquely poetic approach to composing lyrics, a hallmark of much of his original material. “‘Borne’ is a pretty unfiltered breath of newness; a beginning statement,” explains the guitarist when describing the album’s opening track. “The song is a declaration to oneself to remember to not overthink things and make them more than they should be. It’s a reminder to try to be honest, and to let our work be what it is.”
“Hungersite”, another relatively new song that touches on the current state of global affairs with poignant lines such as “Is it time to shed our weapons yet, my friend? / Is it love we’ve drawn away in our groundless low? / Can we step out of the wreckage yet, my friend?”, stands among the album’s many standout tracks thanks to an infectious guitar riff and overall jaunty demeanor.
The opening trio of new material concludes with the title track, “Dripfield”, which shines thanks to Goodwin’s masterful production skills, infusing the recording with a uniquely modern sound. “Dripfield” also perfectly represents the natural dichotomy that exists between Goose’s live shows and their studio albums as it is one of several songs on the LP whose recorded length is significantly shorter than their live counterparts. Clocking in at just over seven minutes, the album version of “Dripfield” is a far cry from the extended live cuts which have pushed well past the fifteen-minute mark during its handful of performances so far, including an epic thirty-minute reading in Chicago earlier this year, and represents something of a departure from their previous album, Shenanigans Nite Club, which features multiple tracks that surpass the ten-minute threshold. That said, these abbreviated versions are a welcome change as they allow the listener to focus on the songs themselves rather than the jaw-dropping musical fireworks that are a staple of their live performances.
“Slow Ready”, the appropriately named slower alter ego of Shenanigans track “So Ready”, succeeds as this arrangement’s sultry tempo nicely complements the lyrics’ amorous subject matter before one of the few Peter Anspach compositions to grace the album, “The Whales”, an upbeat countrified offering that contains a brief but dramatic solo from Mitarotonda to close it out.
The following pair of tracks is where the group’s creativity really shines through as it features re-worked versions of “Arrow” & “Hot Tea”, two of Goose’s most cherished songs, particularly “Hot Tea”, which dates all the way back to the embryonic pre-Goose group Vasudo and is almost always a genuine show-stopper thank to its intense closing jam during live performances. On Dripfield, however, the band took a decidedly different approach to each of the song’s arrangements, slowing each one down a half-step or so and adding the indie-soaked vibes of Stuart Bogie on saxophone, providing a unique alternative to their live analogues. When asked about the new arrangement, Anspach explains, “Arrow” has always been a puzzle for us. It took us months of messing with the arrangement to finally dial it in. And then in classic “Arrow” form, once we hit the studio, it changed it again. The resulting version was created the day we recorded it and was one of most exciting days for us all.”
The album concludes in strong fashion with a duo of songs composed by Anspach, including “Moonrise”, a yet-to-be-performed tender acoustic number with a distinct Simon & Garfunkel feel that was inspired by Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, as well as the airy love song “Honeybee” (featuring affable “Coach” Jon Lombardi on rainstick because, why not?), before wrapping up with the breezy “726” that features some breathtaking vocals.
To say Goose’s meteoric rise in popularity over the past few years is unprecedented is something of an understatement. Aside from Billy Strings, there is simply no other act garnering this much buzz & attention in the greater “jam” scene from fans & critics alike. While it remains to be seen whether or not this level of momentum is sustainable, if Dripfield is any indication, this band may just be getting started.